What is it about the combination of sweet and savory tomato sauce dancing around with a blend of rich nutty cheeses intermingled with a joyous melody of herbs and spices that make you feel like you’re a kid again? Lasagna to me was like the Super Bowl of meals because my mom didn’t make it often. So when we saw that box of lasagna sheets setting on the counter, we knew it was happening and the anticipation began to build. But I won’t lie to you and pretend like there were always gourmet 3-course meal at my dinner table growing up – there wasn’t, but we ate pretty well if you consider the fact that both of my parents worked full-time jobs. And it seems that we often want to give frozen foods a bad wrap as though they haven’t made their way to our kitchen tables, t.v. trays, or even the comfort of our beds a few times.
I recently received an invitation to visit the Stouffer’s Test Kitchen in Solon, Ohio to get a behind the scenes look at how they create some of the best frozen meals on the market. We also learned that Stouffer’s would be launching a campaign called the ‘Kitchen Cupboard Commitment‘, which vows that they are using the same ingredients that you would find in your pantry at home. Did you hear that?…no preservatives or unnecessary additives folks! And they are starting the process with their beloved lasagna. So you can pick their product out of your frozen food section without batting an eyelash. How sweet is that? I mean, talk about having a piece of mind when purchasing groceries for yourself and loved ones.
It was an eye-opening experience into the passion and commitment that goes in to getting these meals onto your table. We were treated like royalty on this two-day trip and the food provided by the Test Kitchen Chefs was nothing short of fantastic. And I’m pretty critical when it comes to what I eat, well, if you exclude my penchant for gummy bears and chocolate (wink). We got the opportunity to work side-by-side with the chefs to see how they prepared the lasagna, and the best part is that we broke off in to groups to make the different types of lasagna and then we got to try them all – win!
We also learned the history of the Stouffer’s family and did you know that it all started with a small coffee shop where they sold sandwiches and buttermilk? Not to mention, we accrued a handful of fun facts and stories about how the brand grew to what is today. After spending some time asking the staff questions and hearing the stories of how they came to love the product and brand; it was clear that Stouffer’s is more than a boxed meal on a frosty shelf. It is apart of people’s lives and every box is connected to a memory.
On day two, we had the honor of learning a some food photography skills from some of my favorite people in life, Will and Susan of House of Brinson. If you aren’t familiar with this uber-talented duo of food/life-style photographers then you should make some French press and head over to their website (Thank me later!).
I know you might be thinking, “Yeah, yeah. You were paid to say these things.” And while yes, the entire trip was paid for by Nestle, this is indeed a product and company I don’t mind recommending to you, the reader. The marketing and branding were as transparent as they could be with answering our questions. And please believe we questioned everything from GMO to salt and fat content in the products. And I always encourage people when purchasing new or old products – to always flip it over and read the ingredient list, google the words you don’t understand, write letters to the companies of whose products you consume. The products that you have to choose from are direct result of what we as the public are asking for, so if we don’t demand higher quality then we won’t receive it. And I’m telling you that your fears of being fed unhealthy products is being challenged by companies like Stouffer’s.
If you are a part of the demographic whose never experienced a frozen Stouffer’s product, consider this a prompt to give their lasagna a try, or maybe some enchiladas. When you find a product that you enjoy – you too, will become a part of the family that Stouffer’s has created worldwide. Did I forget to mention that they sent me lasagna on my birthday? Yeah, talk about a happy guy! You can find more info about their products here and check out this video below of the Open Kitchen Event, you may see a familiar face.